Read an Excerpt
-- Euell Gibbons, American naturalist, author
ABALONE see also FISH, GENERAL; SHELLFISH
TIDBIT Abalone is a mollusk found clinging to rocks along the coastlines of California, Mexico and Japan. It attaches to the rocks with a broad foot (the adductor muscle), which is actually the edible portion. Abalone can be purchased fresh, canned, dried or frozen. It's also known as ormer, awabi, muttonfish and paua.
PURCHASING Like all fresh shellfish, abalone should be alive when purchased (the exposed muscle should move when touched) and smell sweet, not fishy. Choose those that are relatively small.
- Fresh abalone: Refrigerate immediately and cook within 1 day.
- Canned abalone: Once opened, cover with water, then refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 5 days.
- Dried abalone: Wrap tightly and store in a cool, dry place indefinitely.
- Frozen abalone: Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Abalone is a muscle, so it must be pounded to make it tender. Use a mallet to flatten the meat to a one eighth -to one quarter-inch thickness.
- Slash the meat at half-inch intervals with a sharp knife to prevent it from curling during cooking.
- Sauté abalone briefly for no more than 20 to 30 seconds per side -- overcooking makes it as tough as shoe leather.
- Mince and add leftovers to soup or chowder.
TIDBIT This is water to which a small amount of acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) has beenadded. It's used to prevent the cut surfaces of some fruits and vegetables (such as pears, apples, avocados and artichokes) from darkening when exposed to air.
STORING Refrigerate, covered airtight, for up to 2 weeks.
PREPARING For each quart of cold water, add one and a half tablespoons vinegar, or 3 tablespoons lemon Juice, or half cup white wine. One tablespoon salt will also produce the same results, but does not actually "acidulate" the water.
- Fill a small spray bottle of acidulated water and keep it in the refrigerator to have ready to spritz cut fruits or vegetables.
- Use as a soak or dip for foods like artichokes and avocados, or in the preparation of some variety meats, like sweetbreads.
ALMOND PASTE; MARZIPAN
TIDBIT Almond paste is a combination of blanched ground almonds, sugar, glycerin or other liquid, and sometimes almond extract. Marzipan is a similar mixture that contains more sugar, and sometimes egg whites. Though almond paste is the basis of marzipan, the two cannot successfully be interchanged in most baking recipes.
PURCHASING Supermarkets carry almond paste and marzipan in cans and plastic tubes.
STORING Unopened, almond paste and marzipan can be stored at room temperature for at least a year. Once opened, wrap airtight and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
- Soften hardened almond paste or marzipan by microwaving on high for 2 to 3 seconds.
- Combine chopped almond paste or marzipan, chopped dried apricots and chopped nuts; use as a filling for baked apples.
- Scatter chopped almond paste or marzipan over the top of fruit tarts before baking.
- Make cinnamon-almond toast by spreading butter on one side of a piece of toast, then sprinkling with cinnamon, then chopped almond paste or marzipan. Broil until bubbly.
TIDBIT Almonds aren't really nuts, but the kernels of the almond-tree fruit. These kernels contain the trace mineral boron, thought to be instrumental in preventing osteoporosis. Almonds also carry a healthy dose of oleic acid, an antioxidant. In a nutshell, almonds are a nutritional power house packed with calcium, fiber, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin and vitamin E. Blanched unsalted almonds contain about 170 calories per ounce, dry-roasted unsalted, about 150 calories. The good news is that most of an almond's fat is monounsaturated -- as it is in olive oil.
- In shell: 1 pound = One and a half to 2 cups
- Shelled: 1 pound = Three to three and a half cups whole, 4 cups slivered
- Taste almonds before blanching them. The skin adds flavor to many dishes and baked goods, so if it isn't bitter, leave it on.
- To blanch whole almonds, cover with boiling water; set aside for 3 minutes. Strain, then slip off the skins by squeezing the almonds between your fingers and thumb. Blot with paper towels; spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 325° F for about 10 minutes.
- Adding pure almond extract (just a little -- it's potent) to baked goods containing almonds will intensify the flavor.
- Almond extract also makes cherries taste cherrier -- add lust a drop or two to cherry pies and other baked goods.
- Foods containing acidic ingredients (such as tomatoes, lemons or onions) should not come in direct contact with foil. Natural acids create a chemical reaction that can eat through the foil and/or affect the food's flavor.
- Don't reuse aluminum foil to wrap foods for the freezer because tiny holes, created when the foil is crinkled, increase permeability.
- When baking food in foil, keep it from overbrowning by wrapping it shiny side out.
- To easily line a square or oblong baking pan for brownies or other bar cookies, turn the pan upside down, form the foil to fit and tightly crease the corners. Lift off the foil, flip the pan over, and insert the formed foil into it.
- Line a bread basket with foil, then a napkin to keep breadstuffs warm longer.